Looking Ahead: The Pharmaceutical-Science Industry

AAPS President offers hope and solutions for the industry's challenging future.
Oct 02, 2009


Patrick P. DeLuca, PhD
"It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." Charles Dickens' infamous words still ring true today. As we embrace the changes the pharmaceutical industry has experienced during the past year, we recognize the change and uncertainty that's looming both in the US and abroad.

Unemployment in the US has hit 9.5%. Mergers and acquisitions of several large pharmaceutical companies have meant the elimination of thousands of jobs. Those who are still employed are expected to achieve more with fewer resources. And, the uncertainty on Wall Street has caused a ripple effect in laboratories around the world. We have yet to fully feel and anticipate how the state of the current economy and government involvement will affect the future of our industry.

Now, more than ever, it's important that we maximize opportunities, foster global collaboration, and commit to the discovery and development of pharmaceutical products to enhance global healthcare. These are among the topics to be discussed by industry leaders at the 2009 American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) Annual Meeting and Exposition in Los Angeles, taking place Nov. 8–12 (View details at http://www.aapspharmaceutica.com/).

Filling the pipeline of scientists

Throughout the US, pharmacy schools have been struggling with a faculty shortage that is nearing crisis level. This shortage is expected to accelerate, threatening the pipeline of students enrolled in programs to become pharmaceutical scientists and researchers. This does not bode well for the future of research and development.

By 2015, nearly 40% of faculty positions at US schools of pharmacy will be unfilled, according to a report by the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education (AFPE). As vacancies increase, future scientists and pharmacists needed to conduct clinical trials and develop new drugs may not be able to receive necessary training, which will, in turn, affect the future of healthcare in America. In addition, with pharmacy curricula steering toward a more clinical and professional orientation, and with limited financial incentives for achieving a PhD, fewer individuals are choosing the pharmaceutical-science career path.

AAPS and other professional associations, including the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy and AFPE, share concerns regarding the looming shortage in pharmacy school faculty. In fact, we are urging educators and members to spend time with students; offering reduced rates for meetings, workshops and courses; and providing stipends for international student chapters to help fill and sustain the pipeline of pharmaceutical scientists.

Fostering global collaborations

In 2009, the world braced itself for a global healthcare pandemic as a new strain of influenza quickly spread across the globe. The world is no stranger to life-threatening diseases. The emergence of new disease strains, however, underscores the importance of collaboration among the pharmaceutical industry to expedite the availability of more targeted and efficient medications to patients.

As pharmaceutical scientists, we have a social responsibility to improve the lives of people all over the world, including in developing countries where affordable and accessible healthcare is often much too hard to come by. As we foster continued development of breakthrough therapies and potential cures for debilitating diseases, we must encourage discussion and collaboration among representatives from the academic, pharmaceutical, governmental, and scientific worlds.

AAPS leadership recognized the need for global collaboration several years ago, and this past year, the association formed a Global Health and Outreach Task Force. The task force is charged with defining AAPS' role in the global health arena. The upcoming annual meeting will feature a plenary session on drug-product quality and safety in a global environment that reflects the hard work of the task force, chaired by John Carpenter of the University of Colorado.

AAPS will also host the 2010 International Pharmaceutical Federation's Pharmaceutical Sciences World Congress in association with the 2010 AAPS Annual Meeting & Exposition. Thousands of scientists will converge to share various perspectives and showcase late-breaking research, and the latest technology, services, and supplies. We must confront the challenges facing our industry and move with the evolving landscape to push the boundaries of science and overcome debilitating diseases. With a focus group on global health, AAPS is positioning itself for the future in facing these industry issues.

Patrick P. DeLuca, PhD, is president of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS), 2107 Wilson Blvd, Suite 700, Arlington, VA 22201, tel. 859.257.5292,
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